How to Clean and Care for Acetate and Triacetate Clothes

Close up of acetate fabric
  blackred / Getty Images 

Acetate and triacetate are synthetic fabrics made from spun filaments of cellulose. Both materials function as a substitute for silk in less-expensive garments, and similar care must be taken when washing these delicate fabrics. Acetate manufacturers often suggest dry cleaning because the material becomes weaker when wet. With extra care, however, it is possible to wash some acetate fabrics at home. Loose and flowing acetate garments usually don't need frequent laundering. However, tighter clothing such as a fitted acetate tank, blouse or dress will require cleaning after every wear.

How to Wash Acetate and Triacetate Clothes
Detergent Gentle
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Delicate or hand wash
Drying Cycle Type Do not machine dry
Special Treatments Air-dry
Iron Settings Low

Project Metrics

Working time: 10 minutes

Total time: Up to 24 hours, including drying time

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

Tools

Instructions

  1. Read the Care Label Before Washing

    Always read and carefully follow care labels in clothing for best results. Even though acetate and triacetate fabrics can be washed, some garment care tags may recommend dry cleaning only to preserve the shape and structure of the garment. If you are a novice at doing laundry or the garment is expensive, follow the dry cleaning recommendation.

  2. Place Garments Into Mesh Bag

    Prevent snagging from zippers on other clothes by placing the garment in a mesh bag before adding to the washer. Get more protecting by turning the item inside-out before putting it in the bag.

  3. Load and Set the Washing Machine

    Do not overload the washer, choose the gentle cycle and cold water settings, and select a reduced speed spin cycle. Too much agitation and high-speed spinning can produce excessive wrinkles that can be very difficult to remove from acetate and triacetate fabrics.

  4. Remove From Washer and Air-dry

Skip the clothes dryer and allow acetate and triacetate clothes to air-dry by laying them flat or hanging it on a drying rack. Excessive heat may cause the garment to shrink.

Treating Stains on Acetate and Triacetate Fabrics

Treat stains on acetate and triacetate fabrics with a stain remover that's meant for the specific type of stain you're treating, such as coffee stains, ink, or makeup. To remove unpleasant smells, presoak the garment for 30 minutes in cold water that's been mixed with one cup of baking soda, then wash normally.

Never use acetone or organic solvents like turpentine on acetate or triacetate because the fibers will dissolve. This cannot be reversed.

Tips for Washing Acetate and Triacetate Garments

  • Acetate is a weak fiber and shouldn't be exposed to any type of heat.
  • Consider hand-washing delicate acetate and triacetate garments, or take them to a dry cleaner for professional cleaning.

Ironing

If the garment must be ironed, use a low temperature and a pressing cloth to prevent the melting of fibers that can create holes or shiny spots. Press while the fabric is slightly damp and turned inside out.

Storing Acetate and Triacetate Fabrics

Store acetate garments away from any alcohol-based products like perfume or nail polish remover, which can cause damage to the fabric. Instead of hanging items, which can cause the garment to lose their shape, fold and store the garments flat.

What Are Acetate and Triacetate Fabrics?

Acetate fiber is man-made and manufactured from cellulose or wood pulp. What originally began in Europe as a manufactured coating for airplane wings, became a staple in fabric production in the United States by 1924 by the Celanese Corporation. 

Originally acetate was not dye-stable and color bleeding would occur. However, this was resolved by textile experts who realized that solution dying the fibers rather than waiting to dye the finished fabric made the color stable. Now all man-made fibers are solution-dyed before weaving or knitting.

Since acetate is less expensive to produce than many other fibers (thanks to an abundance of wood pulp), and it's not very durable, acetate is often used for short-term special occasion wear like graduation gowns and party dresses. It is also the fabric of choice for some accessories like ribbons, scarves, and neckties that aren't worn often.

Additional advancements were made by the Celanese Corporation in the 1950s with the development of triacetate. Triacetate combines cellulose with acetate esters from acetic acid and acetate anhydride. The result is a more stable, durable fabric that is easier care. Triacetate can withstand more agitation and heat without damaging the fibers.